Illustration used by the Eugenics Society

“Containment and Control, Not Care or Cure”: An Interview with Elizabeth Catte on Virginia’s Eugenics Movement

In Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia, Dr. Elizabeth Catte expertly investigates and contextualizes the local history of eugenics in Staunton, Virginia. The story of the former Western State Lunatic Asylum—now renovated as a luxury hotel and pricey condos—demonstrates how race, gender, class and capitalism intersect in the American eugenics movement to… Read more →

A woman sits at a desk with a laptop, two children playing behind her.

Working Mothers

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed racial and class inequities in brutal ways. Gone are the early days when politicians might say that the virus affects us all equally. We can see in the statistics, in the losses, and in who fills up the hospital beds that this isn’t true. And just as the pandemic helped… Read more →

The Empire of Depression: A Conversation with Jonathan Sadowsky

Professor Jonathan Sadowsky, Theodore J. Castele Professor at Case Western Reserve University, is the author of two important works on the history of psychiatry: Imperial Bedlam: Institutions of Madness in Colonial Southwest Nigeria and Electroconvulsive Therapy in America: The Anatomy of a Medical Controversy. Sadowsky is well known in the field for his nuanced and… Read more →

More Recent Articles

A spyglass in a wooden box.

Sister Mariana’s Spyglass: The Unreliable Ghost of Female Desire in a Convent Archive

In 1731, Sister Mariana de Jesus, a young nun at the Augustinian Convent of Santa Monica in Portuguese Goa, was caught using a spyglass to ogle the monks at the convent’s brother monastery across the street.[1] Under other circumstances, Sister Mariana’s spyglass might not have attracted much attention. Spyglasses were popular among the sisters of… Read more →

Screenshot of MSNBC story about a teen in a FL supermarket refusing to wear a mask.

Misinformation, Vaccination, and “Medical Liberty” in the Age of COVID-19

Vaccination is of critical importance right now. At this moment, the United States is fighting an uphill battle against COVID-19, reaching over 100,000 cases a day and counting. Hospital systems are strained and the country’s morgues are cracking under the pressure of thousands of corpses waiting in trailers for burial. Meanwhile, the vacuum of national… Read more →

A drawing of two men in 1770s clothing wrestling in a river.

Has the World Gone Mad? An Interview with Sarah Swedberg

Sarah Swedberg is a lifelong activist who engaged in anti-apartheid, AIDS, and anti-war activism in the 1980s and continues to fight for justice for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. She is also a scholar of the early American republic, with a longstanding scholarly interest in the history of mental illness. Her… Read more →

Liberty and Insanity Sitting in a Tree

In 2011, I participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar entitled “The Problem of Governance in the Early Republic.” Our group was housed at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and for three weeks the participants, led by Purdue University professors John L. Larson and Michael A. Morrison, talked and argued about a… Read more →